Halep survives top-seed exodus at Madrid Open

Madrid, May 2 (EFE).- Romania’s Simona Halep on Sunday booked a place in the Madrid Open last-16, but Naomi Osaka of Japan and Czech Karolina Pliskova did not make the cut.

Third-seeded Halep won nine consecutive games on her way to a 6-0, 6-4 win over Saisai Zheng.

The Chinese player showed some resistance in the second set, earning two service breaks in the fifth and eighth game, but the Romanian immediately reacted.

The two-time Madrid Open champion broke back in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead and then sealed the game on her opponent’s serve after failing to clinch it in the previous game.

“It was almost the same as the first round … I was really focused in the last game and I just wanted to finish it,” Halep said afterwards according to the WTA Web site.

“I think she played really well in the second set. It’s a great victory and I’m really happy about it,” she added.

Next up for Halep will be either Elise Mertens of Belgium or Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.

Meanwhile, second-seed Naomi Osaka was stunned 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 by Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.

Osaka struggled on the forehand during the first set allowing the Czech player to earn and build on an early service break in the third game.

The Japanese player also fell behind at the early stages of the second set at 3-1, but she won five consecutive games to force a decider.

Muchova, 24, then dropped one game on her way to end Osaka’s quest for her maiden clay-court title.

This was the first back-to-back win for the Czech player, who struggled with an abdominal injury after her good Australian Open run that saw her reach the semifinals.

In Melbourne, she knocked out two Top-5 players; her countrywoman Karolina Pliskova and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.

“It was a tough match today, but we had some preparation,” Muchova said after the win.

“It’s not specific preparation if I play Top 10 players, or Top 20 or Top 50 players. It’s usually very similar, but I’m just trying to prepare as much as I can and as best I can, and then I just try to play my best on the court,” she added.

Muchova will play against Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who defeated Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in straight sets.

Pliskova, the sixth seed, was also knocked out by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 7-5.

Belarus Aryna Sabalenka, seeded No. 5, qualified for the third round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, but her countrywoman Viktoria Azarenka was not that lucky as she was forced to withdraw due to a back injury.

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